Act 5 scene 4 can be regarded as the focal point of the play, (In this scene, we have the battle of Shrewsbury). Throughout the play, various conflicts and rivalries build up and at the battle of Shrewsbury (these conflicts and rivalries) reach their climaxes. Right from the beginning of the play in act 1 scene 1 conflicts are building. In this play we have two plots, the first one which is the main one concerns Henry 1V and the rebellion.
Then we have the sub-plot, which is the friendship between Hal and Falstaff. From these two plots spawn other conflicts e. g. the rivalry between Hal and Hotspur, and within these conflicts we have other conflicts e. g. that between Henry and Hal. All of these various conflicts come together at the battle of Shrewsbury. One of the main reasons that the effect of this conflict was so successful is the fact that Shakespeare kept them apart right up until the battle of Shrewsbury. The rivalry between Hal and Hotspur is one we watch grow right from the beginning. In act 1, enryHHnhhhhhh Henry compares the two. He speaks very highly of Hotspur and describes his as ‘a son who is the theme of honours tongue’.
However he speaks quite differently about Hal. ‘See not and dishonour stain the brow of my young Harry’. Henry sees Hal as a burden on his shoulders or a punishment from god, Henry actually says that he wished Hal and Hotspur had been exchanged at birth. ‘Of my young Harry. O that it could be prov’d That some night -tripping fairy had exchang’d In cradle-clothes our children where they lay. ‘ (Act 1 scene 1:85-86). The first impression we get of Hal is of dishonour, from Henry in act 1 scene 1. However after Hal’s soliloquy we have a very different view of him. The lines,
‘Yet herein will I imitate the sun, Who doth permit the base contagious clouds,’ (Act 1 scene 2:199-200) are particularly powerful. Like the sun, Hal will come from behind those base contagious clouds to bring light. This makes us think that there might another side to Hal and that our impressions of him aren’t true. Hal hints that by rising from behind those base contagious clouds, he will rise above his father’s views and prove himself to him and us (the audience). The first impression we get of Hotspur is that he is a very honourable warrior. We get this impression, also from Henry in act 1 scene 1.
Henry says how he envys Lord Northumberland for having blest with such a son. ‘A son who is the theme of honours tongue’. (Act 1 scene 1:79-80) However as the play moves on we learn that Hotspur isn’t the honourable warrior Henry thinks he is. His plans to split England add to this. If England was to be split all sense of order would be lost, there would chaos and anarchy. Another major factor is the fact that Hotspur has a relationship with Glendower. Glendower is supposed to be in league with the devil. He says the earth shook when he was born; he talks about being able to call spirits from the vasty deep.
He says, ‘Why, I can teach you my cousin, to command the devil. ‘ (Act 3 scene 1:54-55) In the end Hal must win. If he were not to win, chaos would rule. At the battle of Shrewsbury, Hal does win; Hal kills Hotspur, good triumphs over evil. This event shows Hal’s true colours, he ‘rises from behind those base contagious clouds’ as he said he would. Any doubts we had about Hotspur are resolved. He shows his father and us (the audience) he is honourable, he makes his father proud. The family conflict between Henry and Hal is one, which is to an extent, decided half way through.
In Hal’s soliloquy we are told how Hal will come out of his shell and prove himself. The main theme in this conflict is respect and loyalty. When his father confronts Hal, he tells his father how he will prove himself. Hal’s brother has taken his place in council, he is known by many because he hangs around with people like Falstaff, robbers and lowlifes. Henry tells him how he has lost all of his respect, both from the peoples and Henry. Henry says some harsh things, which must hurt Hal’s pride, however Hal stands tall. My first impression of Henry was one of a very noble king who was respected by most of his subjects.
He had overthrown the previous king, so was obviously very strong. However by overthrowing a king you break the chain of divine right. This somehow overshadows his glory of becoming king. Henry kept his distance from his peoples and consequently gave him a certain majesty and mystery. Henry’s fear is that as king, Hal would undermine his achievements. As a prince Hal had always been amongst the public, if he were to become king he would probably not be seen as a very powerful king. Henry gives me the impression that if Hal and Hotspur were to meet in combat Hotspur would win with relative ease.
The conflict between the rebels and Henry is in many ways the Fulcrum of the play. This is the main plot of the play; this is the cause of the battle of Shrewsbury; where we learn what will happen to Hal, if he will rise from the base contagious clouds, and if England will be thrown into chaos. This conflict connects all the other conflicts together. The fate of England hangs in the balance. This is very much a conflict of chaos and order. Like in the conflict between Hal and Hotspur, Shakespeare keeps the two sides as distant from each other as possible until the battle of Shrewsbury.
Within the rebellion, trouble is brewing, and an anonymous lord has written to Hotspur telling him that he cannot come to the battle, others then pull out, and it is getting weaker and weaker. Hotspur has cause for concern. As more people pull out the rebellion becomes weaker and weaker. They will be less likely to defeat Henry and his army. Underlying Hal’s conflict with his father is Hal’s friendship with Falstaff, which in itself is a conflict. This is quite the opposite of the conflict between Hal and Hotspur, for which Shakespeare keeps them very much apart.
Hal and Falstaff are always together. Falstaff is very much the joker of the play. He is a robber and has no conscience whatsoever. Our first impression of Falstaff is that he is just a fat, drunk bouncy guy. All he appears to do is eat, sleep and drink. This all changes when we see Falstaff and Hal play acting Hal’s meeting with Henry. This is very powerful. Whilst they are play-acting the subject of banishing Falstaff comes up. Falstaff starts talking about how great and noble he is. Falstaff says (as king) ‘Banish plump jack, and banish all the world.
‘ (Act 2 scene 4: 489-490). Falstaff is hinting to Hal that when Hal becomes king, Falstaff does not want to be banished. This is only conflict, which is not fully resolved. At the end of act 5 scene 4, after Hal has killed Hotspur, Falstaff comes across Hotspur’s body and sticks a dagger in his side to make sure he is dead. He then takes credit for killing Hotspur; Hal lets him get away with it, at this point we ask ourselves, why? We don’t find out in this play. The answer lies in Henry IV part 1. Act 5 Scene 4 is, as I said, the main focus point of the play.
Good triumphs over evil, everything is resolved. Hotspur is dead, Hal saved his father’s life, but, although the battle has been won, the war is not yet over, there are still rebels in background. Glendower is not yet dead, he is still a threat. The war is all but over. However, one may argue that there will always be someone who opposes the monarchy, whether or not something else may happen we don’t know. Falstaff is still around, and more big headed than ever. Hal has let him get away with claiming to kill Hotspur; does Hal have a master plan? We just don’t know.